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The Crack Magazine

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The Psychic of Sachsenhausen by David Turton

2021 - On holiday in Germany with his husband Sandy, Richard’s sudden impulse to take a tour of Sachsenhausen concentration camp induces an episode of the such psychic dissonance that he is transported into the life of another person in another time – namely Garland, a young Danish ballet dancer at the start of his career in 1935. Garland has been raised in an orphanage, and his closest, brother-like bond is to a fellow orphan, Johan. But with no other career in mind, Johan’s superb physique and blond good looks get him recruited as a Nazi guard before the full implications of this role are known, and the pair move to Berlin. Needless to say, an element of gay fantasy has crept into the plot, so it comes as no surprise when Garland, thriving at first in the increasingly doomed remnants of the city’s decadent, theatrical hey-day, discovers his homosexuality – just as Johan, now a camp guard, is being taught to hate any deviation from the perceived sexual norm. You know this can’t end well, and it’s a relief when we finally return to 2021 for the narrative coda. The novel shows a rare depth of research and sympathy but it’s a harsh read, with its exploration of politically encouraged sadism and the intensity with which its characters are exposed to the atrocities of institutionised hatred.

Curious Corvid Publishing

Gail-Nina Anderson

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